Many parents know all too well how long kids can spend playing video games alone in their rooms, but the reality of games nowadays is they’re not alone at all. 

Your kids are taught young not to talk to strangers , and yet many of your kids are doing just that everyday, right under your nose.
“It’s concerning when your child is talking to random people all day, I can imagine,” said Cheshire‘s Eric Engelhard.

Engelhard knows all about it, because he does it, spending four hours per day playing the popular game ‘Fortnite‘.

Related Content: The obsessive impact of Fortnite on kids, and what parents can do about it
Quinnipiac University‘s video game design professor Elena Bertozzi knows games have come a long way since the days of parcheesi and risk.

“You don’t really know what’s happening inside a game server or chat room unless you are around.”

She says while there’s value in having kids advance with changing technology, it’s also important parents aren’t letting their guard down.

“You can have the ‘safe game play’ talk and let them know, often people we talk to online aren’t who they say they are. They misrepresent themselves. They pretend to be different. If anyone solicits money or wants to meet you somewhere or asking for pictures or things you shouldn’t be sharing, that’s just an important conversation to have with your child.”

It’s important for you to know the game is popular among young kids and adults; and there are times when people talking to each other will actually meet-up in person.

Here’s an example of how that transition can happen. A bunch of local players met up at the Westfarms Mall one weekend for this Fortnite tournament. Events like these happen all over Connecticut.

The thing is, real-time discussion is an important part of the game. It’s how players develop and execute strategies. You just have to beware of conversation going beyond game strategy.

“You have to be careful because you don’t know who you’re talking to,” Engelhard said. “You can be talking to anybody.”

There are more steps parents can take to be proactive outside of having the “safe gaming talk” 

  • Parents can disable voice chat altogether by going into Fortnite’s settings menu.
  • You can create a rule in your home that your child only plays with friends he or she knows, or move the game into a room where you can hear what’s going on.

“If they’re spending a long time chatting with someone online, you might want to try to figure out who they’re talking to and what they’re talking about,” Bertozzi said.

The chat happens over a microphone, so it’s easy to hear if the conversation turns toxic. It’s about letting your kids have fun, but knowing who they’re associating with, just as you would in any other environment. 

Another tip – All of these games keep a record of play. You can have them print their statistics. That will indicate how many hours they’re playing. You may find it’s more often than you thought, like when they’re supposed to be sleeping!